I have searched the archives of the forum but it hasn’t came up for at least three years so i thought I’d get a new perspective.
I have once again started to learn Morse. Some may remember i started a while ago but after 6 months life got in the way and i stopped. I had got to learn the alphabet at 15wpm character speed at around 3-5 wpm speed and was onto numbers before i stopped. I am now back to learning it and have quickly got back to characters A-M at the same speed as before after a couple days of listening practice on the way to work. I am also starting a Morse learning course up at the local radio club as a few of us want to learn the code and we have a couple of cw operators at the club.
Anyway thats not what the topic was going to be about
The topic of this thread is to ask all you CW operators what Morse key you use for sota. I want to pick a nice small key or paddle that is a sort of prize to myself once I have mastered enough of the code to try a QRS QSO.
I know there is the palm mini and pico around the £80-90 mark and the black and red Chinese type paddles i can get direct from china via aliexpress for around £32 delivered(these are the same as the Watson and Moonraker ones which are £80 they go by the name of Uniham) but I was wondering what other options are out there that people use?
i know you can make your own but I want to buy myself a prize for fulfilling something in this hobby I have wanted to do for over 10 years but never got round to.
I’m not looking for anything above £100-£120 maximum really so the lovely bengali adventurer is out of my price range.
I recently switched to a Palm Pico Single from an AME PortaPaddle, and I’ve been very happy with the switch. I found the PortaPaddle was not reliable, the pivots would get sticky and not rotate well, and the contacts were sometimes intermittent. I also couldn’t find a way to get some strain relief for the cable. I’ve been using the Pico for a few months now, and have no complaints. I think it’s also lighter and less volume.
On my very first SOTA activation I carried a Bencher paddle for lack of something more suitable. On my second activation I already had a homemade paddle made of wood, a significant weight improvement!
Similar designs - ready built or as a kit - can be found at other dealers. The big advantage is: no moving parts, no contact gap that might need readjustment when the keyer gets thrown into a back pack. The disadvantages: It will not work with gloves (an issue in alpine winter!) and it relies on batteries. I carry a spare 9V block and a pico paddle as back-up in my emergency pack deep down in my back pack!
Got a mini paddle from Palm from…this morning, 'just tried it at home but already love it.
Lightweight, smooth and soft under fingers and very responsive.
Only drawback (on my opinion of course) is the unit price. But quality lasts.
I used the pico-Palm with my MTR series rigs for several years. It works reliably.
For the past year I have been using a touch paddle with the circuitry built into the MTR3. It uses about 2ma of power so that’s inconsequential. There are many ways to make the touch piece. I cut away the shield of two RCA plugs and use the center posts,
The touch key has the following BIG advantages:
no moving parts so nothing can be damaged in transit
no contacts so they can not get dirty or corroded
much smaller overall profile so the rig fits in my shirt pocket (no pack needed for many hikes)
cheaper than almost any paddle
The two protruding touch points are visible to the bottom left in this photo. Note that I clip my log to the back of the radio, hold the radio in my left hand with the log, up, and send with my right hand.
P.S. the piece of blue foam shown to the right of the radio uses tiny magnets to stick to the face of the radio and protect the delicate switches during transit. The white dental case seen plugged into the antenna jack houses a broadband EFHW impedance transformer into which the antenna is plugged using no feedline. A tiny space-pen is tethered to the radio and transports in the pink soda straw seen taped to the blue foam. A 300 mAH LiPO velcroes to the top edge of the radio completing the set-up which weighs about 8 oz complete.
I tried one of those touch sensitive sensor paddles many years ago and I found it very faulty with my dry skin. It worked perfectly when it was being touched by other two hams with me at that time, but was very faulty whenever I did it.
My conclusion was that it was a matter of skin conductivity. My skin seemed to be too dry for that.
Never tried them again though.
I own both the DCP and the Porta Paddle. The Porta Paddle is a step above the DCP. One big difference I like about the Porta Paddle over the DCP is making adjustments. They might look similar but the feel is not the same.
I cannot confirm Richards findings at all! My keyer works flawlessly in rain and snow. The only critical issue is, you have to touch it with your bare skin. This is no fun in sub-zero temperatures. I think that there was progress in circuit design. The circuit I am using does not rely on resistance but uses the capacitance created by your touch to detune an oscillator. The circuitry then converts this into a key closure.
I do not know about Gurus skin type. But again never an issue for me even in the extreme cold where skin gets dried out a lot.
I estimate that my touch sensitive keyer was succesfully used in over 500 SOTA activations. I have also used it during my 2013 and 2014 Scotland tours where I had the occassional opportunity to operate in pouring rain from beginn to end of an activation. The keyer never made any problems even under these high humidity Britain conditions.
Maybe Richard could share the circuit he has been using so we can compare.